Is opener the hardest to prepare for?

Is opener the hardest to prepare for?
September 2, 2013, 8:30 am
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John Harbaugh on Denver: 'They don't have a weakness'

EARLY BIRD: Waking up with the Ravens on Monday morning, Sept. 2.

Two-minute question: Is the season opener the toughest game to prepare for?

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said on Sunday that the Ravens began preparing for Thursday's opener at Denver as soon as the schedule came out, so on the one hand, the Ravens have far more time to prepare for their Week 1 opponent than they do for any other opponent.

But there is also an entire training camp to run, four preseason games to play, and a roster to put together, so it's not as if the Ravens coaches have just been sitting in a dark room studying Broncos game film for three months.

But even if they could, there are always numerous personnel changes year to year, and watching too much film from the previous year might not paint an accurate picture of the current season. Schemes might be similar, but tendencies might be different, and strengths might be different based on new personnel.

Case in point: Watch any film of the Broncos last year and you are bound to see the formidable pass rush of Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. But this year the Broncos pass rush, against the Ravens at least, will feature neither of them. Dumervil is now with the Ravens, and Miller is suspended for the first six games.

Likewise, the Broncos could watch tape of the Ravens all they want from last year, but they would see no Chris Canty, no Daryl Smith, no Dallas Clark.

And it's hard to get a read on those players much in the preseason either, since playing time can be so sporadic and the offenses usually don't want to show their hand.

Ray Rice said on Sunday that the Ravens' offense in the preseason was "very vanilla," and that was by design. Teams in the preseason are notoriously bland with their offense, trying to save the good stuff for when the games count.

“There are always more surprises in this game – probably things that each team has been holding back that they didn’t run in the preseason ," Harbaugh said. "... You’ve got to assume that, but you can’t chase ghosts. You just have to prepare for what you see and concern yourself more with what you’re doing than with what they’re doing.”

 Hit the links:

John Harbaugh on Denver: 'They don't have a weakness' 

Ravens prepare for season opener in Denver